Yale Student Has the Key to Stopping the Flow of Online Bullying

A West Auckland teenager, about to head off to study at Yale University in the United States, hopes to leave behind a legacy that will help other young Pacific youth who are struggling with issues around social media, online bullying, and sextortion.

Andre Fa’aoso, 18, is one of a group of 13 members of Netsafe’s Youth Action Squad who have come up with a toolkit to give troubled teens help. 

He said the idea behind it was that the group thought there was a better chance that young people would be more likely to listen to other young people. 

Andre, who is half Tongan, told Stuff recently that the idea of peer-to-peer support was something YAS thought was valuable. 

He said it was something they never had at school, and they wanted to change that. 

The kit has information on where to turn if students are dealing with issues such as online bullying, pornography, sexting, and problematic gaming behaviour. 

He hoped the kit would encourage students to create YAS groups at their own schools. 

School principals have raised concerns about peer pressure on students to share explicit images, and a report commissioned by Netscape estimated cyberbullying cost Aotearoa more than $440 million a tear. 

Andre said he had seen how destructive online bullying could be for students. 

“You are constantly bombarded with (images of people who have) abs or muscles or who fit in to certain styles of sizes of clothing,” he told Stuff. 

“Online spaces have become a bit of a nightmare to navigate.’’ 

The YAS initiative was supported by Netsafe CEO Brent Carey. 

He said it was well known that youngsters got a lot of their knowledge from their peers so it was important to equip them with any help they could give for dangerous online situations. 

Andre said he hoped to work in journalism when his academic studies were complete – whether that was in New Zealand, or the US was something he hadn’t yet decided on. 

He told Newshub that he hoped to become someone that “Pasifika, Maori and Rangatahi in general’’ could look up to. 

‘’If they have a dream and they have a passion and a drive to do something ... they can. There is always a way.’’ 

Check out Netsafe’s Youth Action Squad (YAS)

Read more about ‘Staying Safe Online’